"The situation on the Normandy front grows more difficult daily; it is approaching the proportions of a major crisis.”
-- Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Commandant of German Army Group B
D-Day introduces cards for the first time into the official Axis & Allies game line. This causes a few fans some trepidation. Before I discuss how the cards work, I'll quell the concerns of those Axis & Allies fans who have issues with cards invading their game.
- The cards are not collectible. There's a fixed set of cards in the game, and you never need any more of them.
- The cards are not randomized. They will appear in the same order, though some may be added or subtracted by decisions you make.
- The cards are not played out of your hand. In fact, they're not hidden information at all. Any deceptiveness you bring to the game will come from your strategy.
Now that I've covered what the cards are not, I'll tell you what they are. The deck is broken into three sets of sixteen cards, which allows you to play at least four different games with the components in this box. Each of the three sets has its own card back so you won't get them confused. Here are graphic designer Abigail Fein's card backs.
The card deck has three types of cards: order cards, fortune cards, and tactics cards. Only the first type is used in every game of D-Day. You can play with just the order cards, the order cards and the fortune cards, the order cards and the tactics cards, or all three sets. Each combination can be a very different game from the rest.
Here is a summary of each card type.
The order cards drive the sequence of play, which doesn't have player turns as you've come to know them in Axis & Allies. Instead, order cards break each turn into distinct phases. During a given phase one side (either the Axis side or the Allies side) is active. For example, in the case of order card 1, the activity is done by the Allies player(s), as the Allied paratroopers attack. The Axis player doesn't act during this order; he must wait for his own orders to come up.
During each turn of play, you follow the instructions on the order cards, one at a time from the lowest number to the highest, then place the card face up in the “Completed Orders” box. When you have completed the instructions on all the cards, check for victory. If no one has won, the turn is over but the game goes on. Flip the deck over, return it to the “Orders” box, and begin the next turn of play.
Sometimes, order cards go away, after their usefulness is exhausted. For example, after all the paratroopers have landed, you don't need the Airborne Assault order card any more. As the game progresses, the deck becomes smaller.
The order cards are numbered 1 through 16 and are always played in numerical order. Each order card has a symbol or symbols corresponding to the active player. Sometimes the other side can respond. This is indicated in smaller text below the first line. The remainder of the card describes the actions to be taken that turn.
At the end of the turn, if the Allies have the only units in Cherbourg, St. Lô, and Caen, they win. If it's turn 10 and the Allies don't control all those cities, the Axis wins. Otherwise, the deck flips over and the next turn begins.
The success of the Normandy invasion depended as much on chance as it did on planning. Paratroopers went off course, supply lines collapsed, and orders got garbled or lost. For both sides, the surprises of D-Day led to the loss of thousands of lives.
The D-Day game recreates this effect through fortune cards. These cards are numbered 1 through 16, just like the order cards. Before the game, each of these cards is placed in the deck before the similarly numbered order card.
When you flip a fortune card, you roll a die. On a 1, you get a positive development. This can be a change of the results needed on the next order or an effect on the pieces used in that order. For example, the example fortune card's positive development is the doubling of the effectiveness of paratrooper attacks.
If you get a 6 on the roll, you get a negative development. This fortune card's negative development is the Axis choosing some paratroopers to be eliminated and stopping the rest from attacking.
You can change your tactical plans between determining the fortune result and acting with those pieces. For example, if a fortune card indicates that some of your units hit more effectively or not all of your units can attack, you know that before committing to any specific action.
Strategy is the heart of any Axis & Allies game, so deciding when to uncork your boldest effort is a key part of the decision-making. In this game, tactics cards represent strategic maneuvers each side can perform outside the course of normal events.
The tactics cards are also numbered 1 through 16. When included in the game, each tactics card is placed after the correspondingly numbered order card. (That puts the cards in alphabetical order: Fortune card, Order card, Tactics card.) Each tactics card states which player can use the card and describes its effect.
Each tactics card can be used just once by the appropriate side. This sample tactics card gives the Allies a new batch of paratroopers, but then the card is removed from the game. You might want to invoke this card on turn 1, or you might want to wait for the beaches to clear out first. In the second case, the Axis player knows you haven't used this card yet so he or she may change tactics to take advantage of that information.
Tactics cards and fortune cards allow you to try new strategies against the same players. Changing the card mix allows you to add complexity and choices to the game, at the possible expense of it taking a little longer. You decide in advance whether you want to play with just the order deck or add in one or both of the other two decks. This way, your first game can be a different experience from your 10th and 20th games.
Those are the three card types. Next week, I'll show you the first set of order cards and how a turn begins. Come on back for that.
Catch up on any previews you missed!
Mike Selinker has been playing, designing, developing, and just plain loving games of every variety for many, many years. He is a gamer in the very best sense of the word. Mike lives in Seattle.